Crude Oil Price Dips Following Massive Drop in Inventories

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning showing that U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by a whopping 12.6 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 405.2 million barrels. That inventory is about 4% below the five-year average for this time of year.

The huge drop in inventories is likely the result of a weekly decline in imports of some 11.2 million barrels. Crude production was flat, and so was refinery throughput. The massive drop in crude inventories was more than offset by the decline in imports and the increase in distillate production. What looks bullish for oil is, in fact, bearish.

Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories fell by 6.8 million barrels in the week ending July 6. Gasoline inventories decreased by 1.6 million barrels, and distillate stockpiles rose by about 2 million barrels. For the same period, analysts expected crude inventories to decrease by about 4.8 million barrels. Gasoline inventories were seen down by a million barrels, and distillate inventories were expected to rise by 1.7 250,000 barrels.

Total gasoline inventories decreased by 750,000 barrels last week, according to the EIA, and remained about 6% above the five-year average range. U.S. refineries produced about 10.7 million barrels of gasoline a day last week, up by about 400,000 compared to the prior week. Total motor gasoline supplied (the agency’s proxy for demand) averaged 9.6 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, down about 100,000 compared with the prior week.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for August delivery traded less than 0.1% lower at around $73.27 a barrel and rose to around $73.60 (up about 0.5%) shortly after the report’s release. WTI settled at $74.11 on Tuesday and opened at $74.21 Wednesday morning. The 52-week range on August futures is $46.51 to $75.57.

Week over week, U.S. crude oil exports fell by 309,000 barrels a day last week, and U.S. production remained flat again at 10.9 million barrels. Exports averaged 2.03 million barrels a day last week and have a cumulative daily average for the year of 1.83 million barrels a day, a 141% increase over the year-ago export total.

Distillate inventories rose by 4.1 million barrels last week and are about 12% below the five-year average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged 4.1 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up by about 300,000 compared with the prior week. Distillate production averaged 5.4 million barrels a day last week, down by about 100,000 compared to the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged 7.4 million barrels a day, down by 1.6 million compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 96.7% of capacity, with daily input averaging 17.7 million barrels a day, about 1,000 less than the previous week’s average. Exports of refined products rose by 487,000 barrels a day last week to 5.63 million.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.872, up less than a penny from $2.866 a week ago and down about five cents per gallon compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.26 on average in the United States.

Here is a look at how share prices for two blue-chip stocks and two exchange-traded funds reacted to this latest report.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) traded down about 1.0%, at $82.80 in a 52-week range of $72.16 to $89.30. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded up about 2.7%.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded down about 2.5%, at $124.41 in a 52-week range of $102.55 to $133.88. As of last night’s close, Chevron shares are trading up about 20.7% over the past year.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEARCA: USO) traded down about 1.9%, at $14.78 in a 52-week range of $9.00 to $15.08.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEAMERICAN: OIH) traded down about 1.5%, at $26.72 in a 52-week range of $21.70 to $29.87.